In this installment we flashback to see Jake and Wakesho in happier times in Kenya. Remember to read the previous chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4. Oh, and in case you were wondering, for the non-Swahili speakers, Wakesho is pronounced “wah-KAY-show.”
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. All characters are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual people, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.
“Let’s go to the Seychelles for our honeymoon.” Wakesho had been flipping through a travel brochure, and now pointed to a picture of a white sandy beach and an impossibly blue ocean.
“Babe, I’ve been living on the beach for the past two years, I could use a change of scenery. Why not someplace like Cape Town? We could do a winery tour and go hiking in the mountains. Or what about Morocco? I’ve always wanted to see the Atlas Mountains.”
“I don’t want to go someplace cold, you know how I hate the cold.”
It was true. Wakesho slept under a heavy blanket pulled entirely over her head even on hot and humid coastal nights that had Jake lying awake, sweating. He wondered how she would cope with winters in America.
“Okay, so what if we compromise? Someplace that’s not too hot and not too cold. Where is a place like that, Jake?”
“Hmm, Nairobi?” Jake teased.
“No, silly! I’m not going to Nairobi for my honeymoon!”
“What about Eldoret? They say it has the most perfect climate in the world. We could stay with Tom and Kosgei.”
Wakesho punched him playfully on the arm. “Be serious! We’ve been to Eldy a dozen times, and I’m not staying with anyone on my honeymoon! I want you all to myself.”
“I hear that Hawaii has a beautiful climate, not too hot and not too cold. But it’s expensive and we don’t have much money.”
“Oh Jake, as long as we’re together I don’t care where we go.” Wakesho hugged Jake and kissed him quickly on the cheek.
“Even if we’re living in a mud hut on some remote mountainside?”
“I’m not sure about this mud hut business, and no mountainsides, it has to be warm, remember?”
“Don’t worry babe, we’ll figure it out as we go along. I should be able to get a government job with my Peace Corps preferential hiring status, and you can go to school or start a business, or do whatever you want. America is the land of opportunity.”
“I want to open a bakery. I want to bake fancy cakes of all shapes and sizes. And cupcakes. All those delicate little pastries that wazungu love to eat.”
“You are my delicate little pastry,” said Jake, kissing Wakesho and biting her playfully on the tip of her nose.
It was a warm Sunday morning and they were lounging around Jake’s house that was perched atop a short cliff above the Indian Ocean beach, drinking coffee and eating maandazi (donuts) that Wakesho had brought from Mombasa. The roaring crash of waves at high tide nearly drowned out the gospel singing screeching from a tiny Chinese Great Wall brand black and white television in Jake’s neighbor’s compound. Occasional laughter floated in on the breeze from the hand-pumped borehole behind Jake’s house as girls and women gathered to collect water in plastic jerry cans, which they carried deftly on their heads.
Wakesho was wearing only a thin kanga wrapped around her otherwise naked body. She was so petite that she could easily wear a single kanga like a dress, tied in a knot around her neck they way young girls do. The Swahili kangas have short slogans or proverbs written on them, and women take pride in wearing ones that fit their personalities. Jake had bought this particular one for Wakesho in Mombasa at an Indian shop because the message had spoken to him. It read “wapendanao ni sisi, hebu tupeni nafasi” which meant “we are in love, give us a chance.” Wakesho adored it and wore it so often it had already become threadbare. She said it perfectly described their relationship, that they just needed life to give them a chance.
Jake was shirtless, wearing only a sarong. The heat was already oppressive and it was only 10am. Though he had lived at the coast for two years he had never become inured to the constant heat and humidity. The coffee made him sweat. He craved a glass of iced tea, but without electricity in his house he had no fridge and the nearest cold drink was a 15 minute walk away at Mzee Bendera’s duka. Bendera always kept a few bottles of Coke in the freezer just for Jake, knowing how much he loved ice-cold drinks. Mzee Bendera was the only Kenyan Jake had ever met who liked really cold beverages. Most people preferred their sodas and beer room temperature.
“What time will you go back to Mombasa?” Jake asked.
“In the afternoon. I want to reach home before dark. You know I don’t feel safe walking there at night.”
“So we have all day. What do you want to do?”
“I want to stay in bed with you and cuddle all day.”
“Babe, it’s too hot to cuddle. I’m already sweaty. Not that I ever mind getting sweaty with you, but this heat just makes me feel sleepy.”
“So let’s go have a cold shower together,” said Wakesho.
At noon Jake and Wakesho had a simple lunch of beans and rice at one of the small hotelis near the matatu stage in town. Jake bought several sticks of mishkaki (roasted meat) from Mzee Shee’s stand outside and had him spoon several large heaping spoons full of his specially made hot sauce into the beans.
“How can you eat such spicy food?” asked Wakesho. “That sauce is so hot it makes me cry.”
“It’s so good,” said Jake, “plain beans are so bland, and this is the perfect way to jazz them up. I don’t know what Mzee Shee puts in his secret sauce, but it’s awesome.”
Jake’s nose was running and his eyes were watering when he finished his bowl. He chugged a glass of lukewarm water and sipped a cup of milky chai, which helped cool the fire in his mouth.
After lunch they decided to take a walk on the beach. The sun was intense and the heat was oppressive, but down by the shoreline the ocean breeze made it tolerable. The tide was receding, leaving a line of flotsam to mark the high point. They strolled hand in hand for a while on the firm wet sand below the high tide mark, and then found a shady spot to sit under a large Casuarina tree where a local fisherman had pulled his dugout ngalawa out for repair.
Wakesho lay with her head on Jake’s left shoulder as they watched the waves.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked. Her left hand was playing with his chest hair, which she found endlessly fascinating.
“I was just daydreaming about what our children will be like,” Jake replied. “Our daughter will be beautiful like you, tall and thin. She will have brown eyes and kinky brown hair that will be impossible to comb or control. She’ll let it grow in long natural dreadlocks.”
“No! Our daughter is NOT going to be a dirty Rasta!” laughed Wakesho. “She will have long straight hair like you. People will think she is a muhindi,”
“She will be so beautiful that we will have to keep the boys away with my shotgun,” laughed Jake.
“And she will have your brains,” said Wakesho. “She will be a doctor. Or maybe an astronaut.
“She could be both, maybe she’ll be the first Kenyan-American doctor in space,” said Jake.
“What about our son?” asked Wakesho. “I hope he looks just like you. Tall and handsome, with your lips.”
“My lips?” asked Jake.
“These lips,” said Wakesho, kissing him. “I love your lips. I love kissing you. I love you so much, Jake.”
“I love you too, baby.”
They spent the afternoon on the beach, napping and cuddling, whispering their love to each other. At four Jake rode his Peace Corps issued bike to the matatu stage with Wakesho riding side-saddle on the back rack. The women of the village stopped and stared and giggled, shocked and envious to see an African lady being carried on the back of an mzungu’s bike.
A matatu was waiting at the stage with the engine running, nearly full. Loud hip hop thumped through the subwoofers and a video played on the screens installed overhead. An elaborate paintjob announced this vehicle as The Undertaker II, with an airbrushed likeness of a wrestler on the back window. Wakesho took the front seat, beside the driver. Jake came to the window to say goodbye.
“Bye sweets, I’ll see you next weekend?”
“Yes, my dear. I will come next Friday afternoon.”
“Have a good week. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
The driver revved the engine and the tout slapped the roof of the Nissan minivan. Jake gave Wakesho a quick kiss and the vehicle pulled away, off to the Likoni ferry that would carry the passengers across to the island of Mombasa. Jake noticed his teen-aged friend Hassan sitting on the steps of a nearby duka, watching Jake and Wakesho.
“Habari yako, Hassan?” (How are you?) he said, waving.
“Mzuri sana! Umepata msupuu poa! Mrembo sana!” Hassan said, giving Jake a thumbs up sign. (I’m well. You have a cool chick, she’s hot!)
“Asante. Ni kweli. Yeye ni poa kabisa. Haya, baadaye bwana.” (Thanks, yeah it’s true, she’s totally cool. Later, man.)
Jake got on his bike and pedaled back to his house, which suddenly felt very empty and quiet without Wakesho. His shirt still smelled of her perfume where she had lain on his chest while watching waves.